Is Failure to Pay a Toll a Crime?

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Growing up in North Carolina, the only time I saw toll roads was when my family took a road trip out of state.  But now that I’m a middle-aged soccer mom, toll roads are an essential part of my weekend travel from soccer fields in one end of Wake County to another.  (I know that the state is required to maintain alternate, comparable, non-toll routes, see G.S. 136-89.197, but I can’t make it from Knightdale to west Cary in 30 minutes without travelling on a toll road.)

The Triangle Expressway, the state’s first and only toll road, has an open road tolling system. This means that drivers traveling on the road are warned that a toll will be assessed, but are not stopped on the highway—or provided a place to stop—to make a cash payment. Instead, motor vehicles entering the expressway travel underneath a camera system that records an electronic image of the vehicle’s license plate.  And don’t get any bright ideas. Willfully covering any part of a registration plate to interfere with a toll collection system is an infraction punishable by a fine of up to $100. G.S. 20-63(g).

If the vehicle is not equipped with an electronic toll collection transponder linked to an account with sufficient funds to pay the toll, a bill for the toll is then mailed to the registered owner. G.S. 136-89.214.  The bill must be mailed within 90 days of the travel.  The bill states the date and time of the travel, the toll road traveled upon, and, to further jog the owner’s memory, an image of the vehicle’s registration plate.

The bill explains how a person may contest liability for the toll.  The registered owner must pay unless he or she can establish that the motor vehicle was in the care, custody or control of someone else when it was driven on the toll road.  G.S. 136-89.212. This might be the case, for example, for vehicles that have been leased or recently sold.  An owner who contends someone else is responsible for payment must submit a sworn affidavit to the North Carolina Turnpike Authority.  If the vehicle is leased, the affidavit must be supported by a copy of the lease agreement, and if the vehicle was sold before it was driven on the toll road, the owner must provide documentary evidence of the transfer.

I haven’t invested in an NC Quick Pass toll transponder. My bills for trips down the Triangle Expressway generally arrive about a month after my travel.  The Turnpike Authority sets the rates, which vary depending upon where one travels on the road and the number of axles for the motor vehicle driven. Holders of pre-paid NC Quick Pass accounts pay lower rates.

What happens if you don’t pay?

Processing fee. I found out the first response the hard way.  I received a bill for approximately 80 cents, which I promptly forgot about and failed to pay within thirty days. The next bill was for the original 80 cents plus a $5 processing fee.  The Turnpike Authority is authorized to charge a processing fee of up to $6, though a person may not be charged more than $48 in processing fees in a 12-month period.  G.S. 136-89.215. Lesson learned here.  I haven’t paid late again.

Civil penalty. Things get worse for repeat offenders.  A person who receives two or more toll bills that are not paid within thirty days is subject to a civil penalty of $25.00.  G.S. 136-89.216. Only one such penalty may be assessed every six months.

Registration block. If the person still fails to pay, the Turnpike Authority must notify DMV, which then must withhold the registration renewal of any motor vehicle registered in that person’s name.  G.S. 20-54; G.S. 136-89.217.  The Turnpike Authority explains its collections process for delinquent Quick Pass holders here.

It’s not a crime. There is no criminal penalty for failure to pay a toll.  However, displaying an expired registration plate (which could result from the inability to renew due to unpaid tolls) is a Class 3 misdemeanor. G.S. 20-111(2).   So pay those tolls.  North Carolina needs the money.

34 comments on “Is Failure to Pay a Toll a Crime?

  1. I received a letter from NC Quick Pass sometime earlier this year. Thinking it was junk mail, I tossed it without opening. Second letter I think I did the same thing. Third letter I opened and was shocked to find a toll fee of less than a dollar plus processing and late fees totaling about $30. I live in Greensboro and could not recall being in Raleigh anytime in the last several months, let alone driving on a toll road. Asked my family members and no one could recall either. I finally called them and they directed me to their website to see my license plate going through a toll. I set it aside thinking there is no way I’m going to pay more than $30 for a toll less than a $1 when I had no idea I was driving on a toll road. Well just received another bill from them with new total of $98.45. Includes $25 civil penalty and another $6 processing fee. Meanwhile two weeks ago I did reregister my vehicles. First, I think it is crazy that there are toll roads that you can drive on without your knowledge and be billed later for. Second, how can a toll of less than a dollar escalate into a $98 bill with a civil penalty. I imagine there are thousands of individuals in my position. If they want to charge a toll, then put in a toll booth and collect it when you pass through.

  2. The same thing happened to me except we had borrowed my mothers EZ-Pass transponder. We took the toll road simply to shave off a few minutes to make a movie time. I think they sent a bill for a few dollars. Well you know how calling up anything to do with government works out 30-40 min on hold to talk to someone so I didn’t inquire about EZ pass & us being charged right away. Next thing I know the bill is $56 and in less then a month that became $98. On what authority of rape can a $2 charge become 50 times larger? The term “Highway Robbery” comes to mind (get it highway robbery)… At any rate I have still not paid it and now they are saying my registration is blocked. However we did have to use the road again and got a bill that made sense there was a time stamp and a picture of our license plate, it was simple made sense and I understood what I was paying for… so I paid that with no issue but this other crap they made legal is horrible and am looking for some sort of class action law suit to get on. Good luck in Amerika citizens…

  3. I just got off the phone with NC turnpike authority and the best part of my story is my charge was a grand total of $0.45 (forty five cents). That charge is now $98.45!!! At some point it has to become about principal. Do I accept I did not pay my bill (yes) do I think there should be something reasonable as a late fee (yes) do I think anyone should have the authority to take a $.45 cent charge and make my total amount due 218.7 times larger then the original charge (HE to the LL NOOOOOOOO). Imagine having a $40 charge and seeing that become 218.7 times bigger and being told you now owe $8748.00…Sigh! One last point I have been told by several politically connected individuals many years ago we pay vehicles taxes yearly because we don’t have toll roads. Anyone else tired of being Milked?

  4. I live in Virginia and traveled on the toll road in September 2014. I have Virginia licence plates on my car and I am still waiting for the bill. I was searching for info on how the tolls are handled from the license plate photos and I found this question and answers. I felt I had to respond with two comments: 1.) The toll process and location of the toll road is VERY clearly marked with easy to read signs and just enough clear info on each sign so that you can avoid getting on the road if you don’t want to pay the toll. The higher tolls for non-transponder users are posted before each camera and again at the camera gantry. 2.) I find it unbelievable that someone who failed to read mail would then complain about the fine increasing because they ignored prior bills. That’s the way credit works!

    • Frankly you do not know what you are talking about! It is quite easy to get on the toll road without noticing it especially when being directed by gps system. Your comments are probably because you are a government worker and quite used to ripping of the general public…….

    • Dave – I too live in VA with VA plates and on visit this past weekend triggered photo for .50cent toll on the Triangle Expressway. Did you ever receive your bill in VA? Do you know if there is a contact at the NC Turnpike Authority or NC Quick Pass that I can reach to settle this if I do not receive a bill?? BTW, wold you be related to Congressman David Price from NC???

      Thanks

  5. Robbed by NC Turnpike Authority: a Toll Road that my hubby crossed by mistake last year so we got a 5 dollar invoice in mail ..we thought we got it by an error and now over an year we had to pay over a hundred dollars for this or else they wont renew our car annual registration ….THIS IS WHAT I CALL A LEGAL ROBBERY. I’M FUMING…. NC Turnpike Authority @$%@@@@$$$^^^^

  6. My son drove on the toll road by accident a few weeks ago and I missed the first bill. Now I’ve got a bill for about $45 total. This is ridiculous. It IS robbery. Our own state legislature is robbing us with excessive fees that would be criminal if anyone but the government tried to do this.

  7. I’m in the same boat- $99.31 for an 80 cent fee! I just paid $105, so I now have credit for the next time I happen to drive on some road and someone takes a picture, rather than deal with this. The 1st bill I ever saw had over $40 of processing and civil fees on it. I tried to contest (online) and was told I was rejected. So I sent in a check. That was return for “wrong date” on check (never happened to me before??) The date was within a week or two of the invoice.. Just talked to a live person who felt the fees and fines were “very understandable” because of my failure to pay. Apparently I was also fined for non-payment during the time I was contesting it…

    This is why people hate the government. As if I’m not getting raped by taxes every year, now I’m paying $100 for driving on a road I don’t even think I was on..

  8. Simple really…. set your GPS for “non toll”, avoid the toll road by taking roads that have existed for years, avoid dealing with this quasi governmental, DOT fund raising, for profit entity and drive safely.
    It is not worth the stress of dealing with the simple minded bureaucracy of the thing.

  9. I rode the toll road 147 a few weeks ago. I got the bill a few weeks later >$10, paid it and moved on with my life. If your not smart enough to follow NUMEROUS clearly marked signs. Notice the several bright flashes that take pictures of your car and then ignore the bill in the mail then the fault is your own and you probably shouldn’t be driving.

    Stop blaming other people for you not wanting to pay a $2 fee. It states on the bill with the penalties and ramifications for neglecting to pay. Own up to your own irresponsibility and grow up.

    • I am a little worse off than y’all was traveling hitting the tollroads now and then a year later got a bill for $800 refused to pay it it went from $800 to almost $4000 within a year and a half. They’re ripping all of us off to put money in whoever owns a toll companies pocket I say close all toes are not used for roads are used to make people rich…. Not ever paying someone to travel down the road that we pay taxes for all ready to go to work not ever

  10. I got lost entered the tool, but then realized and got 60 cents bills. We paid late, and the additional bill added up to $100. This is ridiculous!

  11. Price gouging by the State of North Carolina. Worst than the Mafia. Need a lawyer for a Class Action Lawsuit. It is Principal over dollars!

  12. Once it happens to you *once*, you’ll make sure it never happens again. Happened to me, thought it was junk mail, threw it out, ended up costing me much less than others, but $40 – something dollars nonetheless. Fight, complain, etc all you want but keep in mind you can’t win. Thank you Gov. Easley for fulfilling the democrat way of taxing us citizens to death.

  13. I was driving through Winston Salem and later found out I have a toll bill. I did toss the envelop in the garbage for I was positive, I was not on the toll road. Driving on the high way, I was positive, it is only a left lane that is under the toll rule. I can not understand, why I have to pay $6 for the $0.50 old days rate. And then %60 accuses. I paid $6, however, and later called the customer service to ask for $60 to be removed. The representatives refused. But when I asked about the binding contracts BETWEEN MYSELF AND A STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA, under which I made a promise to make a toll payment of $6, and a fee, if failed to make a toll payment, they just hang up on me. I believe, the local legislature needs to be aware of it. It is a true milking and total scam.

  14. A class action lawsuit based on unfair business practices is definitely in order.
    Hey, UNC School of Government, pass this blog onto the law school.
    My $1.68 toll bill now demands $155.18. NC QuickPass customer service said, “I can’t do anything for you.”

  15. I traveled to North Carolina over Memorial Day weekend. My flight got in late at night and I got my rental car and proceeded to Fort Bragg. I’m not familiar with the area so I used google maps to find my way down there. I never had any idea I was on a toll road until I got a bill this week. As it turns out, I had about $2.85 worth of tolls. Add to that the admin fee and I owe $47.85. What a scam! I will definitely cross North Carolina off my list of places to visit for any reason.

  16. How about this, drove to the airport! Don’t remember ever going on a roll, but it was early morning- maybe I missed it. Back and forth to and from the airport?!? Maybe! So fast forward from April to February the next month. I’ve received a bill for $92! First off, sent to the wrong address. 155 not 115. Call and ask about it, lady is super rude. Whatever, I pay $92 just to get them off my back. Then it’s April. I receive a bill for over $100. Same bill I just had paid. Call ask what do I do, this has been paid! Oh send the invoice number and proof of payment. I do it. Nada! I get no response, no invoices! Donesky right? Wrong! Here it is July now I have 3 invoices, one to my address. One to an incorrect address of 155 not 115 (old address) and now one to my brother in laws house! What?!?!?!? My vehicles, yep. I drove on the toll to my docs office at duke this time. But only one came to my house! And the invoice they are saying they’ve sent 5! No way not possible I’ve only lived here since April! So 15 emails later with proof of residency all the invoices, my bank statement showing the first was paid off. They still don’t have it right now I supposedly owe almost 400$, for $30 of toll usage… And don’t forget, I’ve already paid $92!

  17. I live out of state and inadvertently found myself on the toll road because I was just going along with morning (7:00am) traffic. As one of your sarcastic residents stated, yes I did see the sign, I gathered change for a toll both, as most toll roads have, and then poof I was no longer on the toll road. A couple of months later a letter arrived, looked like junk mail, my mistake. After a couple of letters arrived, they already charged the 25$ and 6$ for an original fifty cent toll. I called and spoke with someone,(not very helpful person at that)I also sent an email in to the department. I mailed the fifty cents to them before a second letter arrived and explained this over the phone, no luck. I spoke with someone a second time and told them this is extortion and is down right criminal, surely against all consumer regulatory rules. I don’t live in NC but I agreed to pay $12 because I did not open the first letter, she said ok but I had to pay by credit card, I stated I would send a check but I was not paying by credit card, she then stated if I did not pay her with a credit card she would not accept payement. I told her I would send a check which I did, I also wrote on the check and on the statement “PAID IN FULL” AKA “accord and satisfaction” and also wrote a note stating the matter was settled and I would no longer have any dealings with the turnpike authority. Looks as though NC will be paying me for damages now, and it will end up costing them a lot of attorney fees. what the turnpike is doing is illegal and the turnpike should be taken to court for extorting monies from citizen and violation of consumer rights laws. where does the average person find help to fight these crooks.

  18. After a long conversation with the lady at the toll number, the only way to get out of not paying their ridiculous late charge is to lie about your address right away. If you say that you didn’t get the bills due to a wrong address they will delete your late charges.

  19. I received an invoice from NC Quick Pass today for over $100 because of late fees. This is the first I heard of it. The previous invoices they sent were to an incorrect address, so I never received them. Going to dispute it.

  20. I just received an invoice for $72.63. This is the first bill I’ve gotten from them, and they’ve already included the late fees, etc. That’s ridiculous. I always pay bills on time, WHEN I receive them, anyway. So they were either using the wrong address, or they neglected to mail it out at all. I’ll pay the actual tolls, but no way am I paying the “late fees”.

  21. I just received a bill for 98$ from a toll in Aug 2014. I have always received and paid tolls as soon as I get them. I called and the woman was incredibly rude and told me I had a different address associated with my license plate. However, I have proof that the address they used was invalid and that I changed my address. Unfortunately, I have called and emailed and nobody will help me. Idk where to even send the proof from my car insurance company. Just another way the state of NC can screw a person over.I guess this will be an ongoing process which im sure I’ll lose. Needless to say I moved the hell out of NC and live 5 states away. Funny how they can find me here to send a bill, but we jre not able in almost 2 years to locate me when I lived down the road. I heard Charlotte is next to add a toll road to 77. SMDH! Good luck people of NC.

  22. NC sucks. Always crying broke, This state does NOT need that money as bad as they claim, the government is taking all this money and giving the people nothing in return. This state has adopted a so called Education Lottery and at the same time they employ people working at the top of this game making 6 figures each and then they brag that they have made billions for the schools yet the kids still have to sell cookies and candy bars so the school can buy equipment. The State owns all of the ABC stores and each store is making upwards of 2 million a year. Then the state imposed a tax on services to make even more money which can amount to millions a year. They also took away some government grants (3 Million Dollars) set up for small businesses and claims they are using it to fix sewer systems and roads. Then there’s the property Tax and the highway use Tax and the state Tax. I could keep going. Point is this money is going somewhere and people need to ask there government to explain where all this money is going and who’s pockets are being filled with all this money. This state does NOT have a subway system or a vast network of transportation so it’s safe to say there’s no money being spent on that. I drive around the state and I see old run down buildings everywhere and roads that are in really bad shape. Everyone has to have a car because otherwise you simply cant get around so that’s a lot of Highway use tax being collected. Then the sales tax on Everything!!! all the Tickets the cops write everyday much of that money goes back to the state. So yeah you wanna use the toll roads to get around good I choose to avoid them. But I’ve found that poor signage will get you stuck having to pay these tolls sooner or later. Either way North Carolina is robbing it’s residents blind. I’ve learned that some areas pay more in property taxes than people living in NYC and that a big city. In some cases it actually cost more to live in NC than it does to live in NYC. What are you really getting for all the money your spending? Wake up people start asking questions and watch how fast they try to redirect you somewhere else…

  23. I have wound up in this situation and in March I will again because I did not pay and they put a hold on my registration. I had to take the road because I couldn’t find another way to get where I was going. But I didn’t have the money to pay it, it escalated. The problem is that I know better. I say that because if you call them when the bill gets high the lady is really nice and the first couple times I had fees they waived all of them and let me pay the change that was due. I should have found a way to do that this time but I just kept forgetting.

  24. NC QUICK PASS charged me $0.88 for a toll that I didn’t use. They claim I went through Durham at 3 am & they used a picture from a previous toll that I know I used. I disputed the toll several times and they kept denying it. I went ahead and paid it and a year later when it came to renew my tag I find out it was blocked! I called Quickpass & they said I owe them $99!! They said they sent bill after bill-I only got two! One for the initial bill & another that got misplaced for over 2 months that I just got a few days ago and it shows the $99. I told them I paid the toll and I have proof and they didn’t care–they said you have to pay or the block will remain. How can these people have control on our lives like this??!? I want to find people who want to file a lawsuit against them because this is WRONG!!

    • please lets start a lawsuit this is total bs…. my son got one and didnt get paid and yes i take responsibility of not paying it when it came. but to charge the fees they can is crazy.. i got bills that ive just never been able to pay from 10 years ago and have never been charged this amount in fines.. and they blocked my registration so i had to pay 109.00 when the original amount was 7.99.. this is robbery for them to be able to do this and then the only way they tell us we can get out of it is to email the a LIE saying they were sending it to wrong address…

  25. Credit card companies have a cap on the amount they can charge for a late fee, but apparently the state/whatever company collects the tolls is not bound by the same sense of fairness. My complaint is very small compared to others, charged $6 for a bill sent to the wrong address. The issue is that the customer service is so poor it is not worth the time to sit on the phone arguing with them about this. Other times I have had an issue with them applying my payment to another person’s account (my toll bill is for a business so we have a significant balance every month). Not only did I have to wait 60 days for the payment situation to be tracked down (after sending them supporting documents they kept claiming they never got the scans through email) but I had to keep paying tolls obviously throughout their “investigation process”. It’s not fair to have such an incompetent organization charge huge fees and then provide no customer service.

  26. […] Interstate 540 in North Carolina (named the Triangle Expressway, but more commonly known as the toll road) as one of ten testing sites for driverless car technology. According to the N&O, the Turnpike […]

  27. Morons with a criminal bent of mind are running the nc quick pass toll roads. Road connections that were previously free, for e.g. NC 55 to 147, were criminally included in the toll system. How come? That stretch was already paid for by our tax dollars! It is easy to get into the toll road and for even accidentally straying into one of their small loops, they will bill you 60 cents…even though the postage and paper and envelope costs more than that. They also threaten you upfront regards consequences of delayed payment and additional fees and blocking your vehicle registration. It is time to just boycott this half brained idea to make half of 540 tolled, when the other half is not.

    • Youre quite the clown because everything you just said is myth and not fact. If you can’t afford the road then don t use it~its as simple as that. I live in Cary and am more then happy to use the tollway because theres less morons like you on the road.

  28. I live in the NC mountains where we don’t have tolls and I drove to Raleigh one day and got lost and I accidentally got on a toll road because there was no place to turn around except the toll road. I had to get on it and off it at the first exit to turn around which I was only on it for just a minute then they sent me a bill to my old address which was given to me months later and now I have a $90 bill they say and I feel I shouldn’t have to pay it . I actually saw the toll signs but I never was stopped at a toll booth to pay so I figured I had not made it to the toll yet so I just turned around and didn’t think anything of it. If they want us to pay tolls put up a toll booth and not cameras that no one sees or knows about which i personally consider theft and fraud. NC is committing a felony by obtaining property by false pretenses

  29. Bringing a new meaning to highway robbery. F*** everyone involved in this corruption. I pay you taxes for my highways now you charge me 475.00 because I drove through A $3 toll road 15 times and forgot to pay. Hope your children are eating well off my money fing snobs

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